Monday, November 15, 2010

Bakers, start your fruitcakes!

Fruitcake.  You either love it, or you hate it.  For many people, it's that indigestible red and green impersonation of a fruit product called candied cherries that makes fruitcake intolerable.  That, or the aspirations toward building material and a shelf life exceeding that of a twinkie.  I have made many versions of fruitcake over the years.  The super dark, heavy fruitcake that takes at least two months to age properly was great for the serious fruitcake lover.  The 30 day friendship cake is really more like a fruited bundt cake, but quite tasty for those who don't like traditional fruitcake.  Unfortunately, it takes a starter from a friend or it will take two months to make as well.  I actually tried out three different recipes one year in a fruitcake taste-off.  One was Emeril's, one was from a famous bed and breakfast, and finally there was the tried and true Free Range Fruitcake by Alton Brown, which I had made the two previous years.

Free Range Fruitcake wins hands down for all our fruitcake loving family members.  Lots of good fruit and flavor, no candied cherries.  It is on the darker end of the fruitcake spectrum, especially because I use white whole wheat flour instead of all purpose.  And with all the good quality fruit in it, it can tend to be a little pricey, but it is worth it.  There's never a crumb left.  The original recipe calls for a 10" loaf pan but I find that it bakes up better in two 8" pans.  Then there is one for the fruitcake loving Dad and one for the fruitcake loving MIL that never said anything about loving fruitcake before.  I have tried making it in mini loaf pans before and while cute, they tend to overbake easily and dry out.  The 8" pans got the best reviews for moistness, texture and flavor.

Free Range Fruitcake

It's pretty straight forward.  Macerate your fruit in golden rum overnight.  (Or longer - it will hold.)

Add some apple cider, sugar, fresh ground spices, and yummy butter.  I have a dedicated coffee grinder that I use for spices.

Simmer for 10-15 minutes, then cool to room temp or at least 15 minutes. 

It will hold from this point too for up to two days refrigerated!  Then bring together the batter at room temperature and bake off.   I recommend greasing your pan very well or even better, lining it with greased parchment.  You don't want all that work and expensive ingredients sticking and coming out in chunks.  Make sure to use the toothpick test or wooden skewer to make sure it's done in the middle.  This is a nice dense, golden loaf.  Once it's done, give it the first baste of brandy or flavored rum.  Let it cool completely before turning out of the pan.  I've done orange rum which was very good, but the brandy really gives a nice finish and traditional flavor.  I'll probably stick to that from now on.

Spritz or baste with spirit of choice every few days when the loaf feels dry.  Do this for up to two weeks.  If you find you have over done it a bit and the loaf is a bit too tipsy, (I did that one year with a different super dark fruitcake), dredge that puppy in powdered sugar a few times and let it sit a week to mellow.  Turns out fabulous.  I like to start my fruitcakes at least one month before I will need them.  A mature fruitcake just tastes better.  Try out Alton's fruitcake, it is truly exceptional!


  1. Well done on planning ahead!!! And your cakes look beautiful.

    As a child I loathed fruitcake but I now adore it. And it has nothing to do with tasting a new kind of fruitcake. My mom makes stellar fruitcake (my grandmother's recipe - or is it HER grandmother's recipe??) and has made it every year for Christmas as I long as I can remember.

    My turning point was discovering the wonders of slicing the cake thinly and serving it with very thin slices of aged gouda - and a small glass of eau de vie. It also helps that we allow our cake to age for a year before opening it. (We'll eat last year's fruit cake this year...).

    Your free-range fruitcake sounds quite similar to Mom's recipe. But she puts the brandy right into the batter.

    Oooooh, I like the idea of using rum. Mmmm... maybe dark rum.

  2. Wow, a whole year to age! How do you store it during that time? And what a wonderfully continental way to serve it. ☺


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